Mike & H&S Companies 

Third Battalion, Fifth Marines

Veterans of the Vietnam War
Home Up


The North Carolina Memorial Wall, at the rest area on I-85 near Lexington, North Carolina, has the names of over 1,600 North Carolinians who gave their life in the Vietnam War. One of those names is Herbert Coleman Wright Jr., known by his nickname "Todd" or Coleman to his friends and family. For the retelling of these events I'll call him Todd. 

When stateside Todd was based out of California and met a girl out there, Jeannie, originally out of Missouri. They fell in love and planned to marry. Before they had a chance to do that Todd shipped out for 'nam and ended up being assigned as a company radio operator with a company from 1/9. On 2 July, 1967, on Operation Buffalo, that company got caught in a meat grinder and had a ton of casualties. One of them was Lance Corporal Herbert Wright, who died as a result of his injuries. Panel 22 E, Line 118 on The Wall in D.C. 

In California at about the same time, Jeannie found out she was pregnant with a child she and Todd had made. She wrote him but the letter came back unopened as being undeliverable. She made inquiries with the Marine Corps and they told her that Todd had been killed. She wanted Todd's relatives, parents, siblings, anyone, to know that he was going to have a child and tried to find addresses for them. Since she wasn't legally married to him, the Marine Corps couldn't give her any information. She knew that he was from back East but not exactly where. She searched through local phone directories for months but all her efforts were futile. She gave birth to her and Todd's daughter, Tanya. Eventually she gave up her search and went on with her life. 

In 1980 she met, fell in love with and married my very good friend Don. Though now a Sergeant First Class with the Army National Guard, in 1966 Don had served on the FAC team with H&S 1/4, based in Cam Lo and other lovely northern vacation spots in South Vietnam. 

When the internet started getting easier to use in the 1990s, and knowing about Jeannie's story, in 1995 Don started looking on the 'net for information pertaining to Todd Wright.  At the time, Don was a member of the Military forum on Compuserve (I was a member also and first talked with him in 1996).  A staff member of that forum, Brent Barton, former Navy guy, looked up the info on Todd and in no time had names and phone numbers of various Wrights in Black Mountain, North Carolina.  

By this time, Todd and Jeannie's daughter, Tanya, was 27 years old.  Jeannie gave all the phone numbers to Tanya and she sat down to call.  Her first call was to a lady named Wright, but no relation.  However this lady knew the family, and lived right across the street from the house where Todd was raised.  In fact this lady told Tanya she was looking out of her window at the house where Tanya's Dad had lived his young life.  

Her next call, through the good graces of the first contact, was to her uncle, Paul Wright, who in turn called his sister Kay, living in Chicago.  Kay, in turn, called Tanya. Understandably Tanya was quite emotional and Kay was in shock and taken aback. She asked for phone numbers and called Jeannie and they agreed that Jeannie would send pictures of Tanya from her very early years onwards.  Well, it just so happened that Tanya was a spitting image of her father and grandmother.  She was instantly accepted. 

Jeannie and her daughter Tanya visited Black Mountain in October 1995 and met the whole family.  Tanya's aunt Kay came down from Chicago.  Also, several former Marines from 1/9 who knew Todd in 'nam came for the occasion. They all treated Jeannie and Tanya like queens. The week ended in a ceremony at the local High School, which is also the location of a Veteran's Memorial.   

Since then Jeannie and Tanya, and Tanya's child, who would be Todd Wright's grandson, have been back to Black Mountain.  And Jeannie has been to Chicago to see Kay. 

 So Herbert Coleman Wright Jr. lives on in name and memory and generations to follow will know his story. All because of Marines and other Viet Vets who take care of their own with the help of the technology of the internet.

Postscript: There is a book that you all may have seen called Offerings At The Wall.  One of the pictures in the book is of a yellow Corvette, a North Carolina coffee mug and a picture of a young Marine.  The picture is of Todd Wright and the 'Vette and mug are his. They were left by his mother at the Traveling Wall at one of its many stops many years ago. They were collected, sent to D.C. and saved as artifacts which is why they were in the book.  Don had seen the picture but hadn't put it together.  When Jeannie came back from her North Carolina trip they realized what it was.

2nd Postscript: Don and Jeannie came across the North Carolina Memorial on a trip to Georgia a few years back, the same way I did.  Don had the same reaction I did and came across the story I wrote on the previous page and told me.  The trip was made before any contact had been made with Todd Wright's family.  They both feel the way the whole set of circumstances fell together is eerie.